In support groups, when I ask patients to explain how foods they eat turn into body fat, the most common response is….
“Fat in the diet turns into body fat”
When I ask patients to explain why they believe this, their typical answer is…..
“Because I have been told to lose weight, I need to limit high fat foods such as Butter, Cheese, Eggs, Nuts and Red Meat”
Perpetuation of the calorie counting myth
The logic creating this thought process is the fact dietary fats contain more energy than carbohydrates and proteins.
This is true as dietary fats contain twice as much Caloric energy or the amount of chemical bond energy that is available within a certain molecule.
“Caloric energy is the unit of measure used by scientist’s to explain how much ENERGY is contained in the foods you eat”
- Dietary Fats = 9 kcal/gram
- Dietary Carbohydrates & Protein = 4 kcal/gram
This caloric energy fact is why those in control of the establishment have targeted dietary fats as the primary cause of the obesity epidemic sweeping the globe.
However, the missing piece to the following equation….
“calorie in = calorie out”
Is not all foods you consume are used by your body simply for their caloric energy value…
“Thus, weight loss or weight gain is not as simple as the calories in = calories out equation suggests”
Understanding how your body operates is necessary to know why calorie counting doesn’t add up
With the advent of time and the development of new research technologies that allow scientist to peer inside the human body and see how various molecules interact — for an explanation of these various techniques, see our blog post on healthy fats.
We now understand exactly how the human body utilizes dietary carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
By taking the time to read this blog post – you’ll know more about the basics of nutrition and why counting calories is not an accurate way to determine your risk for weight gain – than 95% of all health care professionals.
What your body does with food after you eat
Everyone is familiar with the terms – Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein. Unfortunately, this is the extent of most people’s knowledge when it comes to the basics of human metabolism and nutrition.
“The process of converting the foods you eat into the building blocks necessary to sustain life”
This is unfortunate, as these macronutrients (as they are commonly referred to in scientific literature) are the very beginning byproducts of digestion.
As carbohydrates, proteins and fats move through various metabolic processes, they are turned into their micronutrient components.
- Glucose from Carbohydrates
- Fatty Acids from Fats
- Amino Acids from Proteins
Food and the building blocks of life
Your body DOES NOT use each of the three micronutrients to create ENERGY as documented above.
Think of it this way….
“Your body does not turn dietary fat into ENERGY that in turn is stored as body fat. This is not how your body works”
The primary uses for each of the micronutrients listed above are as follows:
- Cellular energy required for all biological functions — heart beating, lungs breathing, muscle movements, neurons (brain cell) function — thought life
- The scientific term for this type of energy is Adenosine TriPhosphate — ATP for short
- Fatty Acids
- Cell membranes
- Neurons (Brain Cells)
- Energy production / ATP
- Amino Acids
- Building blocks for biological processes such as Enzymes, DNA, Neurotransmitters
- Building blocks for Hair, Muscle, Skin
- Last resource for energy production / ATP
Micronutrients are not interchangeable
For example, if you ate too few protein calories and too many carbohydrate calories, your body cannot turn the excess glucose into the amino acid building blocks required for say…
This is one reason why many gastric bypass gastric sleeve patients experience hair loss despite the fact they are consuming their allotted calories.
“They are not consuming the right type of food”
How your body converts micronutrients into storage energy known as body fat
The primary indicator of fat cell growth within your body is when you have excess “Fat’s” in your blood stream — This type of “Fat” is known as Triglycerides.
“Elevated triglycerides (excess fat in the blood) is closely tied to many chronic diseases including… Arthritis, Diabetes, Cardio Vascular Disease (Heart Disease) and of course Obesity”
Meals high in healthy fats have a natural effect on your body
What happens when you eat meals high in natural fats – triglyceride levels are immediately elevated – but fall off drastically hours after eating (postprandial)
An example would be. You eat a meal consisting of healthy fats….
“Grilled chicken with avocado salsa, shredded cheese with diced onions and sour cream”
Your blood fat (triglyceride levels) would immediately become elevated, but as your body digests these fats and utilizes them for various processes. Your triglyceride levels would fall off drastically and return to normal within an hour or two after you finish eating.
Elevated blood sugar levels create fat cell growth by elevating triglyceride levels hours after you finish eating
But, when you eat meals that drastically elevate your blood sugar levels. This excess glucose stays in the blood for a hours until your liver finally converts the excess glucose into blood fat – triglycerides – within your liver via a process known as Liver De Novo Lipogenesis.
This fancy term simply means your liver converts excess blood sugar into blood fat starting a few hours (postprandial) after you finish meals high in carbohydrates. This extended period of elevated triglycerides is what eventually leads to fat cell growth.
An example would be. You eat a meal consisting of plenty of carbohydrates…..
“Deep dish pepperoni pizza, with breadsticks, cheese for dipping sauce and a large Coke or your favorite glass of alcohol – say a few glasses of beer or wine.”
Your blood fat (triglyceride levels) would immediately become elevated, as your body digests the dietary fats.
However, within an hour or two your triglyceride levels continue to rise as your body converts the excess blood glucose (from all the carbohydrates) into triglycerides.
Depending on several factors, your elevated triglyceride levels which lead to fat cell growth can continue for hours and hours past what you would normally see with a meal that does not elevate your blood sugar.
Quality of calories is a much better predictor of long term weight loss success than counting calories
As you can see, your body is very complex and staying within a CALORIE NUMBER doesn’t guarantee weight loss success.
A much better indicator of long-term weight loss success is where are the calories coming from or QUALITY OF FOOD!
Quality of food not calorie counting
The quality of food versus quantity of calories philosophy is easily understood in the following analogy.
“Picture 1000 calories coming from sugary soda drinks versus 1000 calories coming from a healthy source such as broccoli”
When you think of calories in this context, it is not hard to see your body using calories from soda differently than calories from broccoli.
In the end, the best way to maximize weight loss and achieve your long-term goals is to concern yourself with the quality of food you are consuming.
Now, armed with this knowledge. The next time you attend a support group and someone asks the question…..
What causes fat cells to grow?
“You’ll know the right answer is those foods which elevate your triglyceride levels for an extended period of time and not dietary fats”